When it all started…

St Quentin sur Isere, Wednesday june 27 2017

Grenoble is the big city opening to the French Alps and mostly associated with winter sports. But it is also the capital of the province where it all started in 1788, less than a year before the Bastille day.

A very rich business man, Claude Perrier, had bought a few years ago a large castle in Vizille, some 20 kms south of Grenoble. He was, like many of the rich bourgeois of the time, open to deep reforms of the country. When the deputies of the province were refused access to the town hall to discuss reforms against the monarchy, centralisation and fiscal abuses , he hosted them in his castle of Vizille. Thus the Assembly of Vizille became as famous in French history as the tea party in Boston in the American history. The 500 notables gathered on July 21 ,  1788 in the castle precipitated a revolutionary movement that was to end only 10 years later , having thrown down the monarchy and turned upside down all the social , political and economic organisation of the country.

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Tournus, tuesday june 25, 2017

There are two things in Burgundy: wine and churches. Both were established 2000 years ago and have been thriving since then. Both attract today tourists from all other the world and play a significant role in the reputation of France as the country where life is good “glücklich wie Gott in Frankreich” say the Germans ” happy as God in France ” Or a a cyclist.Because no country in the world offers such a network of backroads with a church, a castle, amedieval  house at every crossroad. 

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Historical treasures 

Vezelay, Burgundy, sunday June 25, 2017

On the curvy little backroads of France, treasures are everywhere. Human activities  have left traces in villages, in fields, in barns, to be seen by those who know how to admire them. Look at these old jalopies in a barn, probably sleeping there since decades, covered with dust and hoping that maybe someone will have them restored them in their original state. They would tell us so many stories of all what they have seen through their tired eyes…

And this basilic in Vezelay, built in 1150 on a hill looking south and dominating the whole region, how many crowds of pilgrims and tourists have seen its roman pillars?Here StBernard preached the second crusade, sending the chistian military aristocracy of the time to Jerusalem to kill the muslims. If he had know that 9 centuries later the  islamists  would use these medieval crusades as a justification for their revenge  and their terrorist attacks!

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Sens, Yonne, sat June 23rd 2017

In 1903 , the first Tour de France started from  a  café called ” Le réveil matin” In Montgeron , 25 Kms south of Paris.  These tough guys on their heavy bikes headed to Lyon, first layover. 450 Kms southward. We are not that ambitious- or masochist-. “We” is Eurocycle, a bike club that rides every year end of June about 1000kms in a week somewhere in Europe. The group of 25 to 30 riders has a German team, a French one, a Andorran one, and some Brits and Americans , depending on the year. This year we are riding from Montgeron to Nice, in 7 days, about 150 Kms a day on backroads. Nostalgia was the moto of the day: all along the road that follows the Seine river, posh bourgeois houses are abandoned, run down, forlorn, nostalgic witnesses of a time, the end of the 19th century, when well off bourgeois families from Paris would build summer houses along the river. Nowadays nobody wants to put their money in such big houses that require servants and large families to fill them up. Only a few of them are renovated for corporate seminars and conferences, or as senior care homes. Further south, villages and town center in Burgundy are often dead. People buy on internet and in malls, pop and mom stores are gone. Nostalgia. Better admire 12 th century cathedrals and cloisters. They are everywhere in France, and even if they are empty on sundays because no one goes to church anymore, they are witness of an age, the roman and gothic age, that Internet will not destroy, on the contrary: modern technology makes it possible to see the cathedral painted as they were in their heydays. 

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D Day in Chausey

Sat May 3 ,2017

A tiny island in the middle of the sea is probably a good place to escape the fury of the world. In occupied France 1940-44, Chausey remained unstained by German boots. On the contrary, nearby Jersey, Guernesey and Aulderney were heavily fortified,  as Hitler was so proud to occupy some British territory.So, Chausey and it’s some 50 inhabitants never saw the feldgrau uniforms , never heard a gunshot, and never starved. However , war invited itself in Chausey on June 8, 1944, two days after D Day, when  a US Air Force bomber crashed on the island.

That morning at 10.30 Am, leutnant James Q Ogden and his crew of 10 in their heavy “LIberator” bomber, the “Daisy Mae Scraggs” had just dropped their bombs on the railway station of Granville on the Normandy coast, when they were attacked by a squadron of German Messerschmidt 109. The Daisy was soon in fire, and Ogden ordered his crew to jump out of the plane before it exploded. Right under his  wings  he saw the sea and the  tiny archipelago, and hoped for a safe parachute landing on or near the islands.  5 of his men managed to reach the islands, were fishermen picked them up soon after. 5 never made it, and drowned in the sea. The rescued men were sheltered and  pampered by the inhabitants during a month, and probably never ate so much lobster in their life. Parts of the plane were scattered across the islands, were they remained until the mid 50 s.  However a month later, on July 9, the Germans stationed in Granville, before fleeing in front of  General  Patton armored divisions pouring towards Avranches and Brittany , came pick up the pilots and sent them to a Stalag in Poland. One of them came back to Chausey several times after the war to meet the fishermen who had taken care of them . A part of one of the propellers of the plane is kept in  the tiny chapel of Chausey, as well as a plaque in memory of the young men who lost their life in the crash. 

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